To the Editor:
Many of us have been taught to believe that homosexuality, now LGBTQ+, is a sin, or worse, that God hates homosexuals and they are going to hell. Some teachers have even stated this in classrooms where LGBTQ+ students are present. Peers of LGBTQ+ students, school administrators, pastors and religious leaders, as well as members of the community have insulted, harassed and harmed LGBTQ+ students and other LGBTQ+ people with impunity as a result, and not only in vulgar words but through obscene physical assaults and murders.
Although LGBTQ+ people have been more or less excluded from the social studies curriculum, the hidden curriculum and informal learning have all too often denied their humanity and perpetuated hate and violence against them.
Damage has been done to LGBTQ+ children and youth in our schools as a result of their exclusion and mistreatment (in person and in the curriculum). These students often develop anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem and physical ailments, and are unable to finish school.
While the state of Illinois considers whether to acknowledge LGBT people in the curriculum, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions:
What kind of community do we wish to live in?
How do we want to treat those who are different from us?
How do we want to be treated when others find our differences unacceptable?
Do we need to hate others and believe they are morally inferior? Are they inferior?
For Christians, what does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves? To apply the commandment of love to all of our neighbors?
Where does this all lead, if we fail to acknowledge all of our citizens? What are we teaching a new generation?
Do we really believe in human rights?
The inclusion of LGBT people in history education does not mean that we omit the study of diverse beliefs about gender identities and sexualities. And it does not mean indoctrination toward homosexuality. LGBTQ+ people exist in history and in our communities today. Students need to learn about this group as they do about other groups, including the issues they face, and the need we have as a society to understand each other and live together peacefully.
The Illinois bills for LGBT education (SB 3249, HB 5596) deserve your support and so do our LGBTQ+ students, family members and neighbors.
Gloria T. Alter